Arjun Kapoor speaks to Team Box Office India about his upcoming film
Box Office India (BOI): So Arjun, 14 months…
Arjun Kapoor (AK): ‘A 14 month-sabbatical’… according to Indian cinema and
Hindustan ki sabhyata, if an actor doesn’t work for 14 months, there must be something wrong with him… ‘defectivepiece hoga’. Anyway, it has been 14 months but it doesn’t feel like it. It feels right, because I felt saturated, as an actor. In one calendar year, I had Gunday, 2 States, Finding Fanny and Tevar, so that took a toll. I promoted four films, so imagine how bored people must have been, constantly seeing me!
I think it was the right time for me to take a break. I had decided to take care of some major health issues I was facing but since Tevar didn’t work, people thought I had taken a sabbatical. The fact is, I suffered a lot of injuries during Tevar, so I was taking care of those. Balki sir offered me this film and we shot it in 40 days. We finished in October and we felt the release date needed to be during the summer holidays, when we could get a lot more families to watch it because all of us believe it is a not a niche film. It is not only for multiplexes; it is a universal concept. The release date happened to be April but it could also have been January.
BOI: What was your reaction when Balki sir told you that you had to play a house husband?
AK: ‘Accha sir, kitne baaje aana hai shooting ko, batao,’ that’s all I said. Because he had called me and offered me another script, which I heard, and I told him, ‘Sir, this seems interesting. Whenever you develop it fully, let me know.’ Then he said there was another idea he wanted to do later and that I should listen to it. That’s how he pitched the idea (of Ki & Ka).
BOI: This was over the phone?
AK: No, we were in his office. Shamitabh had not done well, Tevar had not done well, so we were two depressed people trying to figure out what we had done. Shamitabh had released in February and this was in March or April. We were talking and he said, ‘Every boy grows up and wants to be like his father, but what if you met a boy who wanted to be like his mother?’ I wanted to meet this boy because he sounded unique. So I said I would love to hear more. When a character awakes the viewer in you, you know you should do the film.
I didn’t think about the fact that I was experimenting or taking a risk. The excitement was so fresh and he (Balki) is a very trustworthy director, so I knew he wouldn’t trivialise it. He was going to explore why the boy was the way he was, and that’s exactly what the film does.
This man has issues, demons. He is a graduate who chooses to be this way, he is not a guy who has failed or is lazy. Balki sir was excited when I said ‘yes’ because I am a typical guy. I am never clean-shaven. He wanted a typical man to play the role because he wanted to show that men can also be this way. It is not about being womanly; in the same way, he wanted the woman to be a corporate executive but he didn’t want her to be masculine. So he cast the most apt woman in the country. She represents feminism, softness, beauty and yet she has personality and charm. A story slike this needs to have the correct intention because these are conversations we need to be having in our country, conversations that are long overdue.
BOI: But most husbands become house husbands, every Sunday!
AK: How would I know? I’m not married. You tell me, Vajir (Singh), do you make breakfast in the morning? I don’t even know how to cook, so I don’t know what I would be like as a house husband. I think I would have to learn to do laundry… But I think, yes, every man has that quality. Sometimes, you get so caught up in your life and work that you don’t make the effort, and if you do, you are not willing to tell the world about it. You’re not proud of it. It is almost a, ‘Let’s keep it between us that I sometimes do house work’ kind of thing. Why should you not flaunt it? Your husband is just appreciating what you do all week by making you a cup of tea in the morning. What’s the big deal? I think there are people who are talking about these things, it’s just that thoda time lagta hai change aane mein.
Essentially, this film deals with a very simple thought – you should always be allowed to choose. What happens in our society is, people still say to girls, ‘Tum ladka thodi na ho, ki bahar jaake kaam karogi.’ Once you finish your graduation, you should get married, then let your husband decide what you should do.’
Our point is, she has studied and graduated so that she can work and be an independent human being. Why should she not be allowed to have that chance? Mindsets need to change when it comes to women. And as far as men are concerned, nobody needs to be ashamed. Running a house is a full-time job. It’s just that you don’t have a visiting card or a designation. That doesn’t mean it’s not important. It doesn’t mean we should take it for granted. Hopefully, this film will start a good conversation.
BOI: In the movie, how does Kareena Kapoor Khan’s character react when your character tells her that he wants to be a house husband?
AK: She is shocked, like anybody would be. For a while, she thinks he is joking, but she gradually begins to understand where he is coming from. She understands why he is the way he is and loves him for it. She always thought a man would curb her ambitions, which is what happens to a lot of women. That’s also the reason women now get married later, so that they can work for a few more years before they settle down, make a home and have babies.
So Kareena’s character realises she has found the right guy, someone who won’t prevent her from advancing her career. She laughs, she is hesitant, but eventually she loves him because of who he is. And she becomes even more successful after marrying him. She has no pressures of housekeeping and, by the end of the film, becomes the president of the company.
BOI: This will be the first R Balki film that doesn’t feature Amitabh Bachchan as the lead character. Did that thought ever cross your mind?
AK: Amit sir is in the film but he is not playing the lead. I think that’s purely down to the film’s material and it’s nice to know that the director is constantly evolving and wants to work with several other people too. Knowing Balki sir, I am sure they will be back together in his next. This was a younger film. But the way Balki sir has included Mr and Mrs Bachchan (Amitabh Bachchan and Jaya Bachchan) into the movie is phenomenal. It’s in the pre-climax, but it will bring the house down. It was just a one-day shoot but we had so much fun. They play themselves in the move and it is hilarious. It really showcases them as a unit. They are superb together. One scene is enough for that combination to work.
BOI: Now we know why Balki sir wanted you to play the male protagonist. But why did he want Kareena to play the female protagonist?
AK: Because he wanted someone who is all-woman. He didn’t want her to come across as main mard ki duniya mein ghoom rahi hoon. She is proud to be a woman. She is ambitious. And I guess she is the right age to play this character because she suddenly realises that she had spent all her energy on the corporate race and hasn’t given her personal life enough attention. This man, kind of, gives her that moment of realisation that she can be with somebody who respects her and loves her. So we needed her to have that gravitas of a woman. I think we have only two or three women who could have played this role, and I also think we look good together. Whatever abstract thought Balki sir had in mind, he pulled it off as a director.
BOI: Also, a fresh pairing always attracts the audience.
AK: Yes, if that were not the case, I would have had only four actresses to work with. Even Deepika (Padukone) is senior to me, Priyanka (Chopra) too. Nobody has asked me these questions. It is only because Kareena is married that this thought has entered people’s minds, which is silly. I think the combination makes the film unique. Kareena has tremendous star value and she doesn’t do too many films. Today, whenever I step out with her, I see the respect that she commands. She has a certain aura, and the love from the audience is unconditional. I have not met anyone in India who has not appreciated Kareena Kapoor Khan at some point in their life. A good actor who has that kind of star power will only help the film.
BOI: How did you react when Balki told you about the title Ki & Ka?
SK: I said to him, ‘How will I explain it to people?’ He said, ‘Don’t explain it; the film will explain it all.’ I asked him why we couldn’t say ‘Ladki & Ladka’, but he said, ‘No, it will be Ki & Ka because in Hindi there is always the striling-puling issue. To be honest, I was not very sure how we would play it. Today, looking at it creatively and at how the trailers, posters, songs and concept have all worked out, I think the meaning of the title has got through to the audience. It is unique and quirky, just like his films are.
BOI: You had Tevar before this and Finding Fanny before that. These are very different films. Is that a deliberate career move?
AK: No, that’s just how I have been working. But, apparently, I only beat people up, that is the image I have, for some strange reason. I think it’s because I am the only actor in my generation who, when he hits someone, makes it look like that person could actually be injured. So the image has stuck. I have done four action films. There is nobody else who does that much action.
But I don’t see myself like that. My biggest film was a romantic film (2 States). As far as choosing films is concerned, it’s been based on the merit of the material and the excitement it brings. Also, you have to realise that I signed Gunday, Finding Fanny and Tevar together. They rolled out in their own time. It was never planned that way. But, yes, with my action image, sometimes I feel people think, ‘Arey yeh toh same picture karta hai’ but then they read the filmography and realise ki yeh toh alag picturein bhi karta hai. I just need to get out of small-town India. I need to come to the cities without beating up people.
BOI: After Ki & Ka, you will start working on Half Girlfriend. You are doing one film at a time.
AK: That is important because a producer is investing a lot of money and paying you a decent sum too, so you be all over the place with three or four films at a time. Your look is compromised, your energy is compromised, and we as actors have other things happening too, events, awards, advertisements, all of which need time. So if you’re doing three films in the midst of all this, something will suffer.
I did Gunday, Finding Fanny and 2 States in the same year and it was exhausting because I was constantly worrying about one film while shooting for another. In Gunday, I needed to have long hair, but I had to cut it for 2 States – and I was shooting for both at the same time! These things bother you as an actor and you feel you aren’t giving 100 per cent. I feel that with one film at a time, I can give 100 per cent. And it is only fair to the director, who has been working on the material for a year.
Now imagine, Mohit (Suri) has been working on a script for so long, he has worked on the music, his prep is on, and if I say, ‘Tu bees din shoot kar, phir mein woh wali film karunga, phir tu bees din kar,’ he is going to ask, ‘How will you be able to play basketball and also play the boy from Bihar in my film?’ You need to give your all to each film. I think most actors do that. Varun (Dhawan) is doing one film at a time, Ranveer (Singh) is doing one film at a time and Ranbir (Kapoor) is also doing one film at a time. It is just that Jagga Jasoos has taken so long that it feels like he is doing two together. Others have been announced, so it feels like he is doing a lot of films simultaneously. I think every actor in my generation is pretty aware that you have to pay your dues to the producer and the director by giving them time and effort.
BOI: Do you think that, being from a producer family yourself, you are able to empathise better with producers?
AK: If we don’t empathise with producers, who will? They are the most hated people and they make the least money. In fact, they often don’t make any money! Hum actors itna chik-chik karte hain, we want this much and we want our own staff, our hair and make-up people. No one ever thinks of the producer. We tend to think, producer toh studio ko bech ke kama lega na. The producer will make money only if you make a good film, if the actors arrive on the sets on time, if everything gets done on time and in the given budget, and once the film is successful.
It is very difficult to earn money from a film today as the audience doesn’t appreciate average stuff because they can watch those films on TV, four weeks later. Now you have to be among the best, otherwise you are irrelevant. That’s why I am empathetic towards producers. I believe no producer of mine should lose money. That’s very important to me. In fact that’s very important for the profession itself.
Tevar is my only film where the producer lost money, and unfortunately it was my own father. If you look at all the earnings and auxiliary rights, the film’s entire recovery was around `50 crore. For a young actor to achieve `50 crore, we should have all been happy. But because the film cost `65 crore, we didn’t make money. That is the only time I was disappointed in myself. Every other film made money. Aurangzeb might not have done well, but Yash Raj didn’t lose any money, In Finding Fanny, the producer made money. So I have never had any major losses except Tevar. And I always think like that.
We also made Ki & Ka on a fixed budget. I was very alert as some films cannot take the load of `30-40 crore. You have to budget it correctly. Our budget was very precise. I don’t know if it is fair to give out the numbers right now but I am sure that Eros International will release the actual numbers because we want the world to know that we made the film on a sensible budget. And 50 per cent of the recovery is almost done. Plus we sold our music separately (to T-Series). Also, the film was made in 45 days, on time, without any stress. So it automatically has a better chance of success even if it racks up only moderate numbers at the box office. For me, that balance is important. It is not about making `100 crore. Profithona chahiye, uske baad film ki kismet. I hate for a producer to ever lose money.
BOI: What do you think will happen on April 1?
AK: I think people are going to laugh all the way to cinemas because it is also April Fools’ Day. We have made a very sweet film, a genuine, romantic comedy. All this talk of gender is an extension of the romance. After a very long time, you will see marriage being considered ‘cool’. In Hindi cinema, marriage is always the last scene. After that, they show poori barbadi chalu ho gayi, which is not the case. I know relationships are tricky but marriage can be fun. This film will help you rediscover the fun in marriage. You will smile and laugh and genuinely love watching it with your family. It is also a film you should see with your partner, because everybody will get something out of it. I hope people watch Ki & Ka because I am proud of the film.
BOI: After the film, more girls will fall in love with you.
AK: That is something I can’t… woh toh… if they go and watch the film, then falling in love is allowed. What is the use of falling in love if you don’t buy a ticket? I just want all of them to watch Ki & Ka if they love me.